I've played rugby for five seasons now, and I hear it compared to football basically every time I talk about it. Now, I know, I know. I live in America, in Wisconsin no less. Of course all anyone cares about is football. Rugby just doesn't hold the same level of popularity. So, since no one knows the difference, allow me to give you 75 reasons to never make that comparison again. Please.
1. The referees are called "sir" if a man and "ma'am" if a woman.
2. Cleats are called boots.
3. The bag you keep your gear in is called a kit.
4. The field is called a pitch,
5. Running full speed is called "at pace".
6. When you score in rugby, it's called a try, and the ball must be physically touched to the ground.
7. If the ball is held up by the other team, the try is not awarded and the ball goes back to the five meter line.
8. You can touch the ball down in your own try zone, resulting in the ball being taken back to the 22 meter line.
9. What would be an end zone in football is called a try zone in rugby.
10. A try is worth five points, whereas in football a touchdown is worth six.
11. What is an extra point in football is called a conversion kick in rugby, and it's worth two points.
12. A conversion kick has to be kicked from the spot the ball was touched down, where in football it's just kicked from the middle.
13. Goalposts in rugby are shaped like an H, whereas the field goal posts in football are shaped like a Y.
14. Unlike football, nobody blocks a conversion kick in rugby or tries to tackle the kicker in rugby.
15. There are six different kinds of kicks in rugby: a punt kick, a drop kick, a chip kick, a conversion kick, a bomb kick, and a grubber kick.
16. There is no position in rugby for someone who just kicks the ball and does nothing else.
17. In rugby, at any point in the game you can kick the ball and run and get it, and if you beat the other team to it, you retain the ball. If you were to do that in football, it would be an automatic turnover.
18. Player numbers in rugby only go from 1-15 excluding substitutions.
19. Each number stands for a specific position, and the positions in rugby have different names than in football. (#1 is loose head prop, #2 is hooker, #3 is tight head prop, #4 and #5 are locks, #6 is blindside flanker, #7 is openside flanker, #8 is eight man, #9 is scrum half, #10 is fly-half, #11 is left side wing, #12 is inside center, #13 is outside center, #14 is right side wing, and #15 is fullback.)
20. There are two basic categories of positions in rugby, forwards (#1-8) and backs (#9-15). Forwards are typically stronger and backs are faster.
21. In rugby, the clock doesn't stop for anything (other than a serious injury).
22. In rugby, there are no separate teams for offense and defense.
23. In rugby, the game play doesn't stop.
24. There are no huddles in rugby.
25. Halftime is about three minutes in rugby, and it's at least 15 in football.
26. The only protection you're allowed to wear in rugby is a mouth guard, but it's still full contact.
27. The game is played in two halves instead of four quarters.
28. There are three different versions of rugby: 15's, 10's, and 7's. In 15's, there are 15 players per team and the halves are 30 minutes each in girls high school rugby but once you get into college they are 40 minutes each. In 10's, there are 10 players per team and the halves are 10 minutes each, and in 7's there are 7 players per team and the halves are 7 minutes each.
29. You are only allowed to pass backwards in rugby.
30. When receiving a kickoff, the opposing team only stands 10 meters away from the kicker, as opposed to the complete opposite side of the field in football.
31. Rugby pitches are measured in meters instead of yards.
32. Football fields are 100x53 1/3 yards, rugby pitches are 120x70 meters, measuring all the way to the back of both try zones.
33. Footballs have seams, rugby balls do not. Rugby balls are also bigger than footballs.
34. Football is exclusively American, rugby is played all over the world.
35. Rugby is currently a part of the Olympics, football is not.
36. Football has unlimited substitutions, rugby only has up to seven, and once a player is taken out, they cannot be put back in.
37. There is no blocking allowed in rugby.
38. You cannot hit someone in rugby if they don't have the ball.
39. Football players average four tackles per game, rugby players average sixteen.
40. You can score in rugby with tries (5 points), conversion kicks (2 points), or penalty kicks/ drop goals (3 points each), as opposed to football which has touchdowns (6 points), extra points (1 point), safeties (2 points), two-point conversions (2 points, obviously) and field goals (3 points).
41. Women's rugby is nearly as popular as men's, but outside of powder puff games, there are hardly any women playing football.
42. There is no one player designated to throw the ball, like the quarterback in football. Every player has to know how to pass and catch.
43. Really, there is no specialized positions in rugby. Every player must know how to play each part of the game.
44. There is no special teams in rugby, and all players play offense and defense.
45. There are three different kinds of passes in rugby, a shovel pass, a pop pass, and a spin pass. Although, my coach is a big fan of the olé pass, which we call the hospital pass because you must catch it with your hands above your head, which would most likely lead to getting hit really hard and having to go to the hospital.
46. When someone is tackled in football, the play is over and everything stops. In rugby, a ruck is formed and both teams attempt to push each other off the ball.
47. In rugby, you can ruck over your own tackle. In other words, you can tackle someone, and then take the ball yourself. In football you can only do that if there is a fumble.
48. In rugby, only the captains are allowed to talk to the sir or ma'am.
49. You cannot wear braces with hard plastic in them in rugby.
50. There is no line of scrimmage in rugby.
51. Football and rugby have very different penalties. For example, there is a penalty for unnecessary roughness and horse collars in football, but not in rugby. And in rugby, there are penalties for having your hands in the ruck or tackling high, but not in football.
52. Tackles in rugby are generally lower and more technically sound than in football.
53. There are no timeouts in rugby.
54. There are no downs in rugby.
55. In rugby, there's something called a knock-on, and it's illegal. It happens any time the ball hits a part of a player's body higher than their shin and the ball goes forward. That's perfectly legal in football.
56. When someone breaks a big rule in rugby, they can get carded and sent to the sin bin (similar to the penalty box in hockey). A yellow card (for something like stiff arming to the face) takes you out of the game for ten minutes or the rest of the half, whichever comes first. A red card (for something like kicking someone in the face intentionally) takes you out for the whole game, and there can be additional consequences depending on the severity.
57. If someone goes to one or both knees in football, they're down. In rugby, as long as you release the ball, you can get tackled, get up, pick the ball back up, and keep running.
58. Penalties in football are settled with a loss of yardage. In rugby, the team who broke the rule loses the ball to the other team and has to back up ten meters. The team with the ball can then do whatever they want with it. They can run the ball, pass it, or kick it.
59. For certain penalties, the result is a scrum. All the forwards basically get together on each team, the ball is rolled in between them, and we fight to the death over it. There are no scrums in football.
60. Football season is in the fall, rugby is fall and spring.
61. According to my teammate Estelle, there are more deaths in football than rugby.
62. In football, helmets are required. In rugby, you're given the option to wear a scrum cap, which looks kind of like the inside of a helmet.
63. There are no set routes to run in rugby like there are in football, but there are running patterns like skip passes, switches, and loops.
64. Sometimes, depending on circumstance, backs can end up in the forward pack and forwards can end up in the backline, whereas things are pretty set in football.
65. There is an exceptional level of mutual respect and sense of family both within your own team and with other teams in rugby that just isn't there with football. In my experience with football, most teams pretty much hate each other and would start fist fights if it wasn't against the rules.
66. There is much more scholarship money available for football players than rugby players.
67. At any point in rugby, a maul can be started, in which most or all of the forwards come together to push as a collective unit against the other team in an effort to gain meterage. (I wanted to put a picture of a maul here, and then I realized that mauls are so exciting that everyone just drops whatever they're doing when one starts, resulting in there being no pictures of mauls from my team.)
68. There are no snaps in rugby, play is restarted with kicks, line outs, and scrums.
69. Football teams are based out of high school, but with rugby there's a lot of club teams since there isn't always enough interest within a school to get a school rugby team together.
70. Turnovers can happen in a lot of ways in rugby, but in football there's only interceptions, fumbles, and not getting 10 yards in four downs.
71. When the ball goes out of bounds in football, the clock stops. When it goes out of bounds in rugby, a line out happens. During this, two people from each team lift one of their teammates into the air, and the ball is thrown in between them for one of them to catch. There is nothing like this in football.
72. In rugby, it is illegal to hit someone without wrapping (you can't just body check someone the way you can in football).
73. Offsides in football means that a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. In rugby, it means that you are not behind the last foot of a ruck or maul.
74. Rugby was invented over 50 years before football.
And 75th and finally… Rugby has given me Bella, the best friend I've ever had. It's given me all the incredible people on Bruisers Rugby, my club, and it's given me an incredible work ethic. It's taught me to stand up for myself and lean on the people I trust. It's taught me integrity and respect, for myself, for my friends, for my coaches, for my teammates, and for my opponents. Rugby has taught me life lessons I will use forever. I have so many amazing friends from my own team and from other teams, people that I know I can depend on. I owe rugby so much, I am who I am today because of it.
And let's face it, I played two years of football and it just can't compare.
All photos in this article came courtesy of Gayla Bartz, Neil Grintjes, and Astrid Lubsey.